- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — The suicide bomber who killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani gained access to him by presenting officials beforehand with an audio recording of a purported peace message from the Taliban, President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.

At a news conference, Mr. Karzai said the recording was a ruse to allow the assassin an appointment with Mr. Rabbani, who led the country’s High Peace Council tasked with seeking reconciliation with Taliban insurgents.

Mr. Karzai’s remarks offered new details about Mr. Rabbani’s death, which dealt a devastating blow to efforts of negotiating a peace settlement with the Taliban to end the decade-long war.

The assassin, who hid a bomb in his turban, killed the 70-year-old former Afghan leader Tuesday at his home in Kabul.

Mr. Karzai said that before he left for New York last weekend, one of his advisers told him that the Taliban had a message for the Afghan peace council. The adviser, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, is a top official on the council and was wounded in the attack that killed Mr. Rabbani.

The president listened to the audio.

“There were a couple of questions and suggestions mentioned regarding peace,” Mr. Karzai said about the contents of the audio.

He said he then talked with Mr. Rabbani, who rushed back home from a trip to Iran to listen to the recording.

“It was not a peace message. It was a trick,” said Mr. Karzai, speaking at a podium set up in a courtyard of the presidential palace. “The messenger was the killer.”

Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, said officials believe Mr. Rabbani’s killing had been planned for four months and that the Afghan Taliban’s governing council known as the Quetta Shura, named after a city in Pakistan, was behind the assassination.

He said the investigation is ongoing. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Rahamtullah Wahedyar, a member of the peace council, said the council had contact for four months with an alleged Taliban representative, a man he identified only as Hamidullah. The alleged Taliban contact, who claimed to represent the Quetta Shura, had traveled to Kabul for talks with Mr. Rabbani and Mr. Stanekzai.

Shortly after Mr. Karzai’s remarks, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker pledged support from the United States and the international community for Afghan peace efforts. He called Mr. Rabbani’s killing a “brutal murder.”

Separately, NATO said Thursday that Afghan and coalition forces killed the top Taliban leader in Tangi Valley who was being tracked in an operation in which a CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down Aug. 6, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs.

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